The Weaver Creek Salmon Run

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The life cycle of the Pacific sockeye salmon is a fascinating one. Although salmon are a salt water fish, they start life in fresh water. Every year in October thousands of salmon migrate back to the river of their origin to lay eggs. The eggs are fertilized by the males and stay buried in a gravel nest until they hatch in the spring.  The eggs turn into alevin, a small fish with a yolk sac under its belly to provide nutrition.  They remain buried in the gravel as they grow. When the yolk sac is used up, they emerge from the gravel as fry.

Sockeye differ in their life cycle at this point as the fry swim to a fresh water lake where they stay for a year growing into smolts. These smolts then migrate back to the ocean where they mature into adults. Near the end of their four year cycle they instinctively return to the creek they were hatched as spawners. Both male and female fish return. The female digs a nest about twenty centimetres deep and lays her eggs. The male deposits his milt to fertilize the eggs. After both are spent, they die, the salmon life cycle complete.

Other species of salmon follow a similar pattern but return to the sea as fry, not as smolts.

Salmon fishing is a major industry in British Columbia and, not surprisingly, people have made efforts to conserve and enhance the salmon stock. Weaver Creek, about 45 minutes from Abbotsford and two hours from Vancouver was the site of the first efforts at salmon enhancement in 1885.

In 1965, after several years of a declining salmon run (from an average of 20,000 sockeye salmon to just 12,000), a spawning channel was built about thirteen kilometres from Harrison Mills.  Every year from October 8th to November 1st, the sockeye return to Weaver Creek to spawn. The facility is open to the public daily from October 6th to November 5th from 8 AM to 4 PM.

The spawning channel meanders in a a serpentine fashion and covers a distance of almost four kilometres.

The tour is self-guided and works its way from the end of the channel to the beginning. There are many large signs along the way explaining the process. I am reversing the order here and starting at the beginning of the channel.

A weir blocks access to upstream Weaver Creek on the right and the salmon are directed into the spawning channel.

At the head end is  weir to keep the salmon from heading upstream and diverting them to the spawning channel (on the left in the picture above).

The first part of their journey is a fishway, a series of four cascades which the fish have to navigate to get to the spawning channel.

Four cascades form the fishway.

These are the highest jumps the salmon must breach to head upstream. From there the fish move into a holding area. The picture at the beginning of this article shows a salmon leaping from the lower to the higher level of the holding pond.

Before they can get into the spawning channel itself, they are sorted and counted. Fisheries staff allow 30,000 sockeye, 2000 pink and 2000 chum salmon to enter the channel at a ratio of three females to every two males each fall. Surplus fish are directed back to Weaver Creek to spawn naturally.

The sorting and counting station

Once past the gateway, the salmon enter the spawning channel itself, a winding stream almost four kilometres long. The channel is specially designed with a gravel bed where spawning occurs. The female fish digs tail down into the gravel create a hole about twenty centimetres deep. She lays her eggs and a male comes along and sprays his milt over the eggs. Then they are covered up and the fish continue along the channel.

Some activity in the water, possibly a female digging a nest.

A female salmon may build several nests before her supply of eggs are used up. Shortly after the salmon, both male and female, are spent, they die. In the wild, the carcasses wash downstream but in the channel, they are collected daily and buried elsewhere on site.

The fish go through a sort of dance or ritual in this whole process. You will see them milling about, sometimes one female chasing another away from a chosen nesting place. A male and female will pair up as a female will not deposit her eggs unless a male is nearby. The male are the larger of the salmon though they look quite similar.

Several salmon in the stream. You can see the salmon up close here as the stream is relatively shallow and the fish come quite close to shore.

The most fun to watch, of course, is salmon leaping over the waterfalls along the way.  The earlier cascades in the stream are higher and take more effort to navigate. The ones in the actual channel are aluminum and are designed to aerate and oxygenate the water. Oxygen-enriched water helps the salmon.  These aluminum barriers have a notch or hole in the middle and the salmon swim up through these notches though occasionally one will just jump over the barrier.

This salmon has just swum through the notch in the aluminum barrier.

Below is a video I shot that shows first the fishway, second the holding area before the counting station, third fish milling about the stream, and lastly, fish swimming through the notch in an aluminum barrier.

The Weaver Creek Spawning Channel is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM until November 5th. It is an almost park-like setting with walking paths and trees lining the banks. There is ample parking across the street from the hatchery. My wife and I enjoyed our visit a lot and highly recommend it.

There were two busloads of Asian tourists visiting while we were there, as well as couples with kids in tow. This is an excellent educational experience for school age children.

The peak of the salmon run is from October 15 to 25 so now is an opportune time to visit.

I should note that downstream is the Sandpiper Golf Course which has an excellent restaurant called the Clubhouse. We dropped by for dinner after our visit to Weaver Creek. If you’re a golfer you could make a day of it, doing some golfing a well as visiting the fishery.  And Harrison Hot Springs is not far away as well.

And I should also note that, while the Weaver Creek spawners are collected and buried after they die, the many other salmon traveling up other creeks and rivers float back down the river naturally after they pass away. These fish are a favorite food source for bald eagles and the Sandpiper Golf Course is also the site of the annual Bald Eagle Festival.  There you’ll see the “world’s largest concentrated gathering of bald eagles” in November.  I’m told November 5th is the best date for eagle watching.

Since the salmon enhancement centre is open until November 5th, you might want to combine both if you visit in early November. There were no eagles to be seen when we went on Oct. 10th – too early in the season. And there may be fewer fish still making the run by November, so it’s a trade-off.  We will be going back for the eagle festival.

Below are some links of interest followed by some more photos.

A fishy commotion
A salmon scales the fishway
A salmon makes its way through a weir
The Weaver Creek Salmon Spawning Channel entrance
Map showing the creek system and the spawning channel. Water flow is maintained at a constant level in the channel to combat either flooding or drought as the case may be.
Layout of the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel

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Airshow at Night

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This year marked the 55th annual Abbotsford International Airshow. I first attended one shortly after I moved to B.C. in 1974 and have attended several times since then. When I was single we’d cram a bunch of us into a car and go together for a day. Later my wife and I took the kids to see the show every few years. But it had been over a decade since we last attended.

Now living in Abbotsford, we were sometimes entertained by mini-airshows as the jets, including the fabulous Snowbirds, sometimes roared right over our townhouse complex. But this year I really wanted to see the show right at the runway again.

The annual event runs for three days – always a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in mid-August. This year the Friday show was an evening affair, with gates opening at 3:30 PM and the show ending around 10:30 PM. We had never been to an evening airshow before, which promised some pyrotechnics as well a aerobatics, so we packed a bag with a couple of sweaters and headed out.

We bought our tickets at Save-on-Foods to save the hassle at the entrance and it’s a good idea to save money as well. Gate price per ticket was $30. At Save-on-Foods, only $25. We avoided the major crunch point by taking Townline Road to a back entrance. We were through the gates in minutes. Lots of volunteers directed traffic to the parking area.

Once inside we looked around and found one of the two runway seating areas. For an extra $10 each you could get close to front row seats. We opted to pay the extra since we hadn’t brought folding chairs or a blanket. Since it was numbered seating, we found our places, and then headed out to see the static displays.

The Abbotsford International Airshow was designated as Canada’s National Airshow by the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. It always features both civilian and military aerobatics as well as static displays. Whether you like barnstormers in their biplanes, hang gliders, sailplanes, powerful air force jets or aerobatic teams, the Abby Airshow has it all.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are always a major attraction and visiting aerobatic teams are often featured as well.

On the ground we got a good look at some of the active and historical planes on display. The Americans had a couple of F-15s on display and you could go up a ramp to check out the cockpit on one of them.

Eager spectators had a chance to check out the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle at this year's airshow.
Eager spectators had a chance to check out the cockpit of an F-15 Eagle at this year’s airshow.

Also on display – a CF-18 Hornet. One decked out in special Canada 150 celebration colours would fly later in the show, but here you could sit in a simulated cockpit if you wanted. There was also a giant troop carrier, a mid-air refueling plane from the American 912th Refueling Squadron, a number of private planes – trainers and stunt planes, and a row of historic planes that included the fearsome looking Douglas A-1 Skyraider aka The Proud American.

The A-1 Douglas Skyraider
The A-1 Douglas Skyraider

The wings were folded up on the display which gave you a good look at the gatling guns and missile launchers. The plane was used by the US Marines, Navy and Air Force as well as the French Air Force and the South Vietnam Air Force from the late 1940s through the 1980s. As a prop plane it was a bit of an anachronism in the age of jets.

The only exhibit we actually entered was the Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter. This aging helicopter has been a political football for years with efforts to replace it with newer equipment being stymied again and again.

The Sea King helicopter
The Sea King helicopter

This particular Sea King first saw service in 1968 – that’s an old chopper! The crew members told us it is primarily used as a submarine spotter and also does a lot of search and rescue work. As an anti-sub craft, it is equipped with torpedoes.  And we were surprised to learn that the Sea King is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Janis in the jump seat beside
Janis in the jump seat beside crewman Travis Chapman.

A separate photo gallery will have more pics from the static displays.

After seeing the ground exhibits we went back to our seats for the start of the show. The Skyhawks, the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, led off the show with displays of the Canadian and American flags while the anthems were sung. They followed that up with some entertaining stunt parachuting.

IMG_9283-r IMG_9279-r

Then the headline performers – the Snowbirds. These nine planes are the show closer during the daytime shows. For the evening show they were first up after the Skyhawks. I took a lot of photos and will feature a number of them in a separate photo gallery.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds - precision flying at its best
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds – precision flying at its best

I tried filming the Snowbirds but in movie mode, my camera uses the view screen instead of the viewfinder and it was impossible to get the planes properly centered with the glare reflecting off the screen. But I did film them in 2004 which I’ve linked below.

After the Snowbirds, we were entertained by the Heritage Flight, four fighter planes from four eras strutting their stuff, individually and together. They included the P-51 Mustang which saw duty in WWII and Korea. The F-86 Sabre was the first swept-wing jet fighter and was used in high-speed dogfights in the Korean War. It was use by the Bolivian Air Force until 1994. The F-16 Viper, also known as the Fighting Falcon, has been in production since 1976 and was used in Desert Storm. 25 different countries use the F-16. The F-35A Lightning II is the newest fighter jet, seeing service with the U.S. Marines since July 2015 and combat-ready with the U.S. Air Force since August 2016. It was the fastest jet on display and the roar of its engines as it hits the after-burners is awesome.

Heritage Flight - top to bottom - P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F-16 Viper, and F-35A Lightning II.
Heritage Flight – top to bottom – P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, F-16 Viper, and F-35A Lightning II.

The Abbotsford International Airport is a working airport and business must go on, so there were a half dozen or so take-offs and landings during the show by commercial flights.

After a stunt flight by a plane called the Jelly Belly, the U.S. Air Force demonstrated the FA-18 Super Hornet, the newest model of the premier fighter in Canada’s fleet. This was followed by a flight of the CF-18 decked out in a special Canada 150 paint job. It was starting to get dark by then so you couldn’t really see the colours, but I did get the bird on video.

Because it was a night time show, the CF-18 dropped its tailhook on landing. Usually used to snag a catch cable on an aircraft carrier, the hook threw up a stream of sparks as it dragged behind on the pavement behind the plane. Quite a sight.

CF-18 decked out in Canada 150 colours drags its tailhook behind on landing creating a colourful spray of sparks.
CF-18 decked out in Canada 150 colours drags its tailhook behind on landing creating a colourful spray of sparks.

A couple of more stunt planes entertained before it got completely dark, one of them the renowned Red Bull Air Racer. I managed to get a nice video of this very maneuverable plane.

Now it was starting to get quite dark and the AeroShell Aerobatic Team took to the sky lit up by lights all around each lane. This was the debut performance of the team at the Abbotsford Airshow and they were terrific. Flying in formation has to be tough in full daylight so seeing them perform in the night sky was amazing.

AeroShell Aerobatic Team
AeroShell Aerobatic Team

Finally complete darkness gave way to Bob Carlton and his Super Salto Jet Sailplane. A sailplane powered by a jet engine – what a concept. Bob trailed fireworks behind him as well as launching more from the tips of his wings. My camera battery was almost dead but my wife got a video with her iPhone.

This was followed by Dan Buchanan with his hang glider, also streaming fireworks. Quite a sight.

Dan Buchanon's night time hang glider flight was a fireworks extravaganza.
Dan Buchanan’s night time hang glider flight was a fireworks extravaganza.

The evening was capped with a full fireworks show. All in all, a rather different take on the airshow than the daytime event. We enjoyed it a lot.

A couple of tips – it cools down considerably in the evening so bring a sweater. We were thankful we did and it was still a bit chilly. And exit where you came in. There was some disorganization when we left as there were no volunteers guiding vehicles and it was a bit of a free-for-all. Quite a traffic jam. We thought the way we came was crawling at a snail’s pace so we followed a bunch of cars going in a different direction – a bottleneck ending in a barrier. Volunteers there finally let us through, but we ended up on some back road. As Abbotsford residents, we figured out where we were, but non-residents could have become hopelessly lost. Leaving the airport was poorly organized. It’s something the airshow should fix for next year.

Speaking of next year, the airshow returns on August 10-12 in 2018. And the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will be back for the show next year. Definitely worth seeing.

Here are some additional photo galleries and other links. if you’re on the front page of the blog you can just scroll down, otherwise click on the links.


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Static Display Photo Gallery

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Here are some additional photos from the static displays ate the Abbotsford International Airshow.

CF-18 Hornet
CF-18 Hornet. To the left of it is a mock-up cockpit you could try out.
C-130 Hercules Canadian Forces Military Transport Plane
Those are very large propellers!
Those are very large propellers!
We were surprised to learn that Abbotsford's University of the Fraser valley has a
We were surprised to learn that Abbotsford’s University of the Fraser valley has an Aircraft Structures Technician program. This is their training plane.
One of the jets open for viewing on the UFV plane
One of the jets open for viewing on the UFV plane
A rather nifty looking pilot training plane.
A rather nifty looking pilot training plane – the Diamond DA42 Twin Star.
A Pitt Special stunt plane used by the Rayban
A Pitt Special stunt plane used by the Ray-Ban Gold Aerobatic Team. They were an airshow staple from 1973 to 1990. This is the team’s last remaining airworthy Pitts Special S-2B.
Refueling plane
An aerial refueling plane from the US Air Force 912th Air Refueling Squadron
The Sea King helicopter
The Sea King anti-submarine helicopter
You got to love their slogan!
You got to love their slogan!
Janis and xxx
Janis and one of the crew of the Sea King.
That's a lot of knobs!
That’s a lot of knobs and gauges!


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Snowbirds Photo Gallery

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Here are additional photos of the Snowbird in action.

The Snowbirds make their entrance.
The Snowbirds make their entrance.
Up up and away
Up up and away
Inverted flyover
Inverted flyover
Heading right towards us
Heading right towards us


Start of the starburst
Start of the starburst
Triple crossover
Triple crossover


Up for the rollover
Up for the rollover









The Snowbirds were undoubtedly the highlight of the Abbotsford Airshow. Simply amazing.

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Airshow Photo Gallery

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Here are some additional photos from the 2017 Abbotsford International Airshow. The static displays and the Snowbirds each have a separate photo gallery. Above – the FA-18 Super Hornet with after-burners on. Almost at the speed of sound it leaves vapor trails in its wake.

The Canada 150 flag was flying at this year's airshow
The Canada 150 flag was flying at this year’s airshow
The show-opening Skyhawks Parachute Team were amazing.
The show-opening Skyhawks Parachute Team were amazing.
Two of the Skyhawks in a downward spiral
Two of the Skyhawks in a downward spiral
The spiral kept growing
The spiral kept growing
The Skyhawks forming an arch
The Skyhawks forming an arch
And a circle!
And a circle! A bit blurry as it was grabbed from a video.
The FA-18 Super Hornet prepares for takeoff
The FA-18 Super Hornet prepares for takeoff
The Heritage Flight - four eras of combat aircraft
The Heritage Flight – four eras of combat aircraft
The P-51 Mustang
The P-51 Mustang
The F-86 Sabre
The F-86 Sabre
The F-35A Lightning II - the miltary's newest fighter which was brought into service in 2015
The F-35A Lightning II – the miltary’s newest fighter which was brought into service in 2015
The F-16 Viper - here shown flying inverted
The F-16 Viper – here shown flying inverted
The Jelly Belly stunt plane
The Jelly Belly stunt plane. After reaching altitude, it turned off its engine and performed as a glider.
And came to a landing right up to one of the airshow's assistants
And came to a landing right up to one of the airshow’s assistants
The FA-18 Super Hornet
The FA-18 Super Hornet
The Red Bull Air Racer
The Red Bull Air Racer
The CF-18 Hornet with after-burners on. Quite dazzling at dusk.
The CF-18 Hornet with after-burners on. Quite dazzling at dusk.
The AeroShell Aerobatic Team was ablaze with lights
The AeroShell Aerobatic Team was ablaze with lights
Bob Carlton's Salto Sailplane trailing fireworks
Bob Carlton’s Salto Sailplane trailing fireworks
Dan Buchanan’s hang glider trailing fireworks
Dan's hang glider shot out fireworks as well as trailed them behind
Dan’s hang glider shot out fireworks as well as trailed them behind
Another shot of Dan's hang glider in the night sky
Another shot of Dan’s hang glider in the night sky

Seeing the airshow in the evening wa a new experience for us and a very enjoyable one. The after dark performances were worth seeing.

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A Warning for British Columbia Tourists

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This post is being simultaneously published on my political blog, The Jolly Libertarian, as Highway Robbery.

Here is a cautionary tale for residents and tourists to British Columbia.

Recently our daughter got married. The wedding was held in Maple Ridge and we had guests from as far away as Australia, Britain and California. My sister-in-law drove out for the wedding from Alberta. The wedding was a great success. Unfortunately, the return home for my sister-in-law was not. She was accosted and robbed by armed thugs on the Coquihalla Highway between Hope and the Great Bear Snowshed.

These were not your ordinary everyday robbers. They hid behind a badge and pretended their actions were moral and just. They most certainly were not.

My sister-in-law fell victim to two laws that jointly were used to extort money from her and provide revenue for a couple of businesses in Hope. Both laws on the surface seem reasonable. But the way they were applied is nothing short of criminal.

One is the law on construction speed zones. If signs are posted noting construction ahead with recommended speeds, you are supposed to slow down for the safety of the workers doing roadwork. Can’t fault the logic on that. Worker safety is an important issue.

The second law is that if you drive 41 kilometres an hour above the speed limit, your car is automatically impounded for a week. Most policemen tolerate excessive speed to some extent. You can usually drive 120 km/hr in a 100 km/hr zone on the highway without being stopped. You are more likely to be stopped for going too slowly on the highway. There’s a law against impeding traffic flow.

In any event, after the wedding, my sister-in-law headed home to Alberta. She reached a construction zone on the Coquihalla and slowed down. The zone was a very. long one going on for many kilometres. The speed signs got progressively slower – ending with a limit of 50 kilometres an hour.

Here’s the rub. There was no construction going on. Not a single worker anywhere along this lengthy stretch of construction zone. While she initially slowed down, after a few kilometres with no workers in sight, she sped up again to normal highway speed. She told me that, among other things, she was concerned that she might be rear-ended by going too slow as others, including big semis, were not slowing down.

And then, like spiders eying their web, the RCMP swooped in and pulled her over. Not only was she speeding in a construction zone, she was going over 41 km/hr over the posted speed limit and they were impounding her car.

Now my sister-in-law is very aware of road safety and is sympathetic to the police in general. I had a disagreement just a few days before when we were driving somewhere together about abuse of police power.

I told her how my daughter had been coming home to Abbotsford from downtown Vancouver and had used the exit bypass at 264th Street to circumvent a traffic snarl on the highway. The road exits to 264th Street, but the road also continues and reconnects with the highway in case you made a mistake and got off at the wrong exit. She naturally took the less congested route, which, incidentally is a recommended practice.

An over-zealous motorcycle cop decided this was, somehow, “not fair” to the other drivers and pulled her over. He told her that what she did was strictly speaking not illegal. But he thought it was “cheating” and he held her by the side of the road for a while before letting her continue on her way. No ticket. No violation of the law. Just an uppity prick with an agenda.

I told my sister-in-law about this and blasted the cop. She sort of shrugged it off. She does not like criticizing the police, though she acknowledged that some (usually the younger inexperienced ones she suggested) are often driven by power-lust and want to flex their legal muscle.

Now she found herself at the other end of police overkill.

The cop called a tow truck and she rode along in the cab with the truck operator as he towed her car to an impound lot in Hope. She was advised where she could rent a car nearby. She went there, a local car dealership, and got the last rental car available.

Following on her tail were a couple of Chinese tourists. They had had their rental car impounded and could not continue on their way to Banff. My sister-in-law offered to drive them as far as Jasper where they could find a car rental and continue on their way.

This Chinese couple were most grateful and paid for the gas fill-ups along the way. They complained bitterly about their shabby treatment in Canada and said my sister-in-law was the first person to have treated them kindly.

China is a burgeoning economy with a growing middle class. While still nominally a communist country, it is no longer the insular country it once was. Not only has China opened up to tourism, its citizens can now travel freely around the world. When my wife and I took a Southeast Asia cruise last year, 500 of the 3000 passengers were Chinese. Chinese tourists are an increasing source of revenue for Canada’s tourism business.

Now my sister-in-law ended up with a couple of thousand dollars of expense. The fine was over $350. She had to pay the towing charge, the impound fee, the week car rental, and the return trip costs. This Chinese couple probably had even more expenses not to mention a bitter experience they would undoubtedly tell their friends and relatives about when they returned home.

When cops sit in wait at a construction zone with very slow speed limits while no construction is going on, they are nothing short of legalized thugs, highway robbers by a different name.

Whether they got kick-backs from the businesses who benefited from their actions is another question. Whether their actions were ordered and sanctioned by the town of Hope is another question. Both questions deserve further investigation.

All parties to this criminal enterprise ought to be ashamed of themselves. These zealous cops have probably cost British Columbia thousands of dollars in lost future tourist revenue and given the province a black eye in the world.

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Suburban Vancouver: An Overview

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This is a follow-up to my previous post, Vancouver: An Overview.  In it I gave a rundown of a variety of attractions in the city of Vancouver proper. Today I continue with a list of things visitors to Vancouver may find interesting in the suburbs. And I am using the term loosely to refer to the panoply of towns and cities stretching from Harrison Hot Springs in the east to Squamish in the west. This is hardly an exhaustive listing simply because there are too many to cover them all and I don’t even know of them all. This is based mainly on my personal experience or what I have heard from others.

Harrison Hot Springs

Harrison Hot Springs is about an hour and a half east  of downtown Vancouver nestled beside beautiful Harrison Lake. It is a popular site for boating and just walking along the waterfront. You can take a boat excursion of the lake or rent your own boat if you like.

As the name suggests, there is a local hot springs nearby and the town has a public swimming pool which has hot water pumped in from the hot springs. There are a variety of hotel, gift shops and restaurants as well.

Harrison Mills

Harrison Mills is a tiny farming community about twenty minutes from Harrison Hot Springs but with some interesting attractions for the visitor to Vancouver. These include Rowena’s on the River, the old homestead of a wealthy lumber baron that was turned into an inn by his children. The inn hosted a Great Gatsby Party a few years ago which I wrote about here. This year they are hosting a Harvest Moon Longtable Dinner on September 16th. Dining under the stars.

Rowena's Inn on the River
Rowena’s Inn on the River

The inn is also adjacent to the Sandpiper Golf Course. And in mid-November it hosts the annual Bald Eagle Festival as majestic birds visit the river estuary to feast on spawning salmon.

Not surprisingly then, another attraction near Harrison Mills is the Weaver Creek Salmon Spawning Channel. The channel is open to visitors during salmon spawning season from October 6 to Nov. 1. Peak activity is from October 15-20.

And another attraction nearby is the Hemlock Valley Ski Resort.


Mission is a small town on the north shore of the Fraser River about an hour from Vancouver. It has two attractions I know of worth a visit. The most famous is Westminster Abbey, a benedictine monastery. Built in 1954, the site includes an abbey, a church and a seminary. It sits high on a hill and is notable for its distinctive steeple which can be seen for miles around.

The second attraction of note in Mission is Cascade Falls, a remote wilderness park that I wrote about in a previous post.



Abbotsford is the town where I live so I have a particular affection for ir and familiarity with its attractions. It is known as the City in the Country and has a lot of rolling farmland including many berry farms – blueberries and raspberries are big. And it has some wineries as well.

The town abounds with walking trails – the Trans-Canada Trail runs for about twenty kilometres along the shore of the Fraser River. The Discovery Trail crosses the city and includes three lakes known as Fishtrap Creek. Mill Lake is also a favorite hiking location. And for the more energetic there is the Abbotsford Grind, a hike up Sumas Mountain.

In the Spring, you’ll want to catch the Abbotsford Tulip Festival which I wrote about when it debuted in 2016.

Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.
Mount Baker forms a great backdrop to the tulip fields.

And every August the city is host to the annual world-renowned Abbotsford International Airshow.

Fort Langley

Fort Langley is a nice little village steeped in history. The main attraction is the old fort, a wooden stockade with many artifacts and employees in period costume demonstrating some of the trades and crafts of a bygone era.

The town itself is known for its many antique shops and boutiques as well as some nice restaurants.

White Rock

White Rock is a town adjacent to the border with the United States. The famous Peace Arch is here. White Rock also has a fine beach with a long pier where you’ll often see fishermen and crabbers. The boulevard running beside the beach front area is lined with small shops and restaurants. It is a popular dining locale with its seascape views and ocean breezes.

On the pier at White Rock
On the pier at White Rock

Richmond is a community immediately to the south of Vancouver and home to the Vancouver International Airport. Its most notable attraction is the Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf.

Steveston is an old community and used to be home to a major salmon canning operation. The former cannery is now a fishing industry museum. Walking along the Steveston dock you’ll find many restaurants and small shops. And you’ll find fishmongers selling their wares from the boats tethered there.

Fresh fish are sold from the fishboats docked at Steveston
Fresh fish are sold from the fishboats docked at Steveston

Walk into the village and you’ll find a bakery, a garden shop, an ice cream parlour and other interesting shops.

A short drive away is Garry Point Park. This park sits at the mouth of the Fraser River and is noted for its windiness and the many kite flyers that like to hang out there.


Directly across the river from Steveston is the Reifel Refuge, officially the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. This is a great park to walk around in and observe a wide variety of waterfowl. Almost 300 species of bird have been seen here. Of particular interest are the annual flocks of snow geese, magnificent white birds that stop here on their migration from Wrangel Island in Russia. These birds usually start arriving in early October.

New Westminster

The main attraction in New Westminster is the Westminster Quay. Its large boardwalk overlooks the Fraser River. The site is home to a large farmer’s market as well as a number of excellent restaurants. You can also visit an historic paddle-wheeler. Always a fun outing.


Burnaby is the city directly east of Vancouver and is known for the large Metrotown Shopping Mall and the iconic Telus building as well as a number of fine parks. But for visitors, your best bet is a museum.

The Burnaby Village Museum is a recreated period village that displays life in colonial times. Craft shops and restaurants are part of the mix. You’ll also find a restored 1912 carousel.

The people working in the village are all dressed in period costumes. The village is a delight for young and old alike.

North Vancouver

North Vancouver is home to numerous attractions. Set in the mountains on the north shore of the Burrard Inlet, it can be reached by the Lions Gate Bridge at one end and by the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge at the other end.

  • Lynn Canyon Park – this beautiful park features a number of trails through a natural setting of tall evergreens, hilly landscapes, and a raging creek. To get to the main park area you cross Lynn Creek on a rickety suspension bridge that soars high above the creek bed. Lynn Creek emerges from a narrow canyon to the north into a wide pool where locals often like to swim and to dive off the cliffs. Meandering down an increasingly rocky bed, the stream picks up speed as it cascades over several waterfalls. Unfortunately, a number of people have tempted fate and drowned here. Trails take you to a lower bridge where you can cross back to the parking lot and concession stands. Lynn Creek is a must see in my book. And it’s free!
  •  Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge – this bridge over the Capilano River is a major tourist attraction. Besides the suspension bridge over the river, there is a walkway that overhangs the river. And there is a treetop adventure – elevated walkways between the trees. This is a private facility and an admission fee is charged.
  • Grouse Mountain – in the winter Grouse is known as a mecca for local skiers. But even in the summer, there are activities aplenty, from hiking to live shows – a timber show and a birds of prey show. You can take the chairlift to the top and see the wind turbine at the peak. There is also ziplining and a number of restaurants. And did I mention the grizzly bears? I wrote about Grouse in the summer in a previous blog post.

    They land below at a park near Cleveland Dam.
    Hang gliders soar from the peak of Grouse Mountain in the summer.
  • Cleveland Dam – this dam holds back the Capilano Reservoir which supplies much of Vancouver’s water.
  • Lonsdale Quay – a large public market with many fresh farm produce shops, meat and fish markets and more. Similar to Granville Island Public Market and Westminster Quay. Lonsdale Quay is also a terminus for the Seabus, a passenger ferry running between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver.
West Vancouver

West Vancouver is home to a couple of nice nature parks, most notably Lighthouse Park and Whytecliff Park. It is also home to the Cypress Bowl ski area.


Squamish is a small town located about an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver. It is nestled at the end of Howe Sound. The Sea to Sky Highway that takes you there passes the Britannia Beach Mining Museum, a former copper mine.

Close to Squamish is a triple attraction, three places worth checking out and all within walking distance of each other. First is the thousand foot high Shannon Falls. This is a graceful airy cataract with wisps of spray catching the wind on the way down. You can easily walk right up to the base of the falls.

Beautiful Shannon Falls
Beautiful Shannon Falls

A short walk away is the Sea to Sky Gondola which takes you to the lower summit of Mount Habrich. There you’ll find trails and several viewing platforms giving sweeping panoramic views of Howe Sound.

Howe Sound seen from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola
Howe Sound seen from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola

One of the platforms gives a view from above the Stawamus Chief, the third part of this triple attraction. The Chief is a popular hiking and mountaineering destination. There is an easily accessible trail to the top of the Chief. But it is a strenuous hike and a challenge if you’re not in good shape.

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Vancouver: An Overview

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I have been asked to be a tour guide for some visitors from Australia in September. That will be a new experience for me and I thought, what better way to prepare for this than by putting together a post here on things to see and do in Vancouver. There are a lot of them.

Vancouver is a cosmopolitan city, Canada’s western port and a hub for visitors and trade. The city itself has many attractions, but the greater Vancouver region has many more so I will cover the highlights of a trip to Vancouver.

Vancouver covers a vast area, but the hub is the downtown. So we’ll begin there.

If you’re staying at a downtown hotel, there are many things to see and do within walking distance. My wife and I have a timeshare downtown and occasionally enjoy a staycation downtown. Invariably we leave the car at the hotel and go on foot. After the map is a list of some downtown attractions as we take a walking tour starting in Gastown.


Gastown – this is an older part of Vancouver that consists of refurbished old buildings that have been turned into shops and restaurants, mostly geared to the tourist trade. The streets are cobbled and with the period streetlights and the famous Gastown steam clock, it has a certain charm.

The Gastown Steam Clock
The Gastown Steam Clock

Chinatown – Vancouver’s Chinatown is the largest in Canada and covers a large residential and business area. For tourists, the business district with its colorful signs and markets is the place to visit. Food markets abound with the occasional herbal medicine shop and other businesses thrown into the mix. And of course, there are several Chinese restaurants.

The food markets are distinguished by food on display in stalls in front of the shops much like a farmer’s market.

The must-see place to visit though is the beautiful Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, a classical Chinese garden with ponds and flowering trees and shrubs, as well as some building and sculptures. Fish and turtles inhabit the ponds. Wikipedia notes that the “classical Chinese gardens employ philosophical principles of Feng shui and Taoism, striving to achieve harmony and a balance of opposites”.  Part of the garden is free to the public and part of it requires a modest admission fee.

At the Sun-Yat Sen Gardens in Chinatown
At the Sun-Yat Sen Gardens in Chinatown

Trade and Convention Centres – On the Coal Harbour waterfront are two trade and convention centres. The older one was built for the Expo 86 World’s Fair and is marked by a distinctive design – massive tent canopies shaped like sails. It is known by its Expo 86 name – Canada Place.

This centre also serves as a cruise ship terminal and it is not uncommon to see a cruise ship or two in port in the summer.

A Norwegian cruise ship docked at Canada Place
A Norwegian cruise ship docked at Canada Place

The centre is adjacent to the Pan Pacific Hotel where you’ll find luxury accommodations and fine dining. But the whole area is chock full of hotels and restaurants.

One of the attractions housed at Canada Place is the FlyOver Canada. It is similar to the FlyOver America exhibit at Disney World at Orlando, Florida. It is a flight simulation ride that has you soar over Canada, feet dangling in space. The giant dome screen takes you coast to coast and has some effects like smells, sounds and even mist as you fly over Niagara Falls.

The other trade and convention centre is the new one built to accommodate an ever growing convention trade. It is noted for its green architecture – a plant covered roof among other things.

Both centres are active year around with various events, many open to the public though usually with a fee.

The new trade and convention centre with Canada Place reflected in its windows.

Coal Harbour Walk – From the trade and convention centres you can walk along a seawall that takes you past various marinas, restaurants, hotels and gardens as you make your way to Stanley Park. You can watch sea planes land and take-off and enjoy a leisurely meal at one of the many restaurants, most of which have outdoor patios.

Stanley Park – Stanley Park is one of the world’s greatest parks. It covers 1001 acres and includes vast tracts of wilderness as well as modern amenities. All of it is criss-crossed by nature trails and you could easily spend a day just exploring the park.  The park is circumnavigated by the Seawall, a nine kilometre walkway that serves both pedestrians and cyclists. I’ll do a separate post on the park some time but here are a few highlights.

  • Vancouver Aquarium – a world class aquarium, it was known for its beluga whale exhibits until recently. Both of its captive belugas died recently and the Vancouver Parks Board banned further importation of these creatures. My wife, son, granddaughter and I visited recently and it has managed to re-invent itself with new shows and attractions. There are dolphin shows and sea lion shows several times a day, and the sea otters remain a popular attraction. And the aquariums are large and cover a wide variety of marine life with notable jellyfish displays. An Amazon jungle exhibit is also featured.

    Sea lions have replaced the beluga whales as a main attraction at the Vancouver Aquarium
    Sea lions have replaced the beluga whales as a main attraction at the Vancouver Aquarium
  • Beaver Lake – located in the northwest of the park smack dab in the middle of a forest. Walking along the trails here is very peaceful and relaxing.
  • Prospect Point – overlooks the Lions Gate Bridge and also has a restaurant.
  • Siwash Rock – a large pinnacle of stone covered in vegetation off the shore from the park.
  • The Tea House – a nice restaurant near Third Beach where they know how to make a proper cup of tea.
  • Malkin Bowl – near the aquarium, Malkin Bowl is an open air theatre that has summer runs of musicals. It is known as the Theatre Under the Stars.

There are many more attractions in Stanley Park, of course, but that covers some of the highlights.

First Beach – After circumnavigating the park, we arrive at First Beach. It is surrounded by gently sloping lawns and has many large trees. First Beach is the locale for the annual Celebration of Light – a four day fireworks extravaganza featuring competitors from several countries.

First Beach is also home to the Inukshuk and is adjacent to the corner of Denman and Davie streets – a vibrant restaurant and shopping district. Davie Street has long been known as a gay enclave within the city.

Granville Island – Granville Island used to be an industrial district but was revitalized as a mecca for visitors with many specialty shops, restaurants and the Granville Island public market. It is still home to some industry, most notably Ocean Cement, but even its massive concrete funnels have been turned into an attraction after being painted as giant men in overalls. The island is home to Emily Carr University, a visual arts centre. It is also home to the Arts Club theatre where you can catch live theatre and to the Theatre Sports League where you can watch improv comedy. The plaza by the public market is home to wide variety of buskers – singers, musicians, acrobats and jugglers.

Even the concrete silos at Ocean Cement have become an attraction on Granville island
Even the concrete silos at Ocean Cement have become an attraction on Granville island

Granville Island is across False Creek from downtown Vancouver and can be reached by walking across the Burrard Bridge or catching one of several small passenger ferries that traverse the creek.

Yaletown – Yaletown can be reached from Granville Island by one of the False Creek ferries. Here you’ll find many shops and restaurants.

Vancouver Public Library – known for its distinctive architecture, this is a great venue for the book lover and just to walk around and visit the shops and restaurants in the area.

The Vancouver Public Library seen from our hotel room on Hamilton Street
The Vancouver Public Library seen from our hotel room on Hamilton Street

Our tour has taken us around the downtown area starting at Gastown and ending at the library nearby. That covers downtown Vancouver more or less. There are other attractions including downtown shopping, Robson Street, the courthouse, and the art gallery, as well as a variety of movie theatres.

Outside Downtown

There are many things to see and do in Vancouver outside the downtown. These include the University of British Columbia and various parks and beaches. Here is a short list.

Van Dusen Gardens – a beautiful botanical garden well worth a visit. We often visit around Christmas when the garden is festooned with lights that flicker in time to music. Simply amazing, and even more spectacular when there is snow.

The light show at Van Dusen Gardens around Christmas is fabulous.
The light show at Van Dusen Gardens around Christmas is fabulous.

Queen Elizabeth Park – set in an old rock quarry, Queen Elizabeth Park can be compared to the fabulous Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, but on a smaller scale. It’s set on a hillside so you get a great panorama view of downtown from here. Q.E. Park is also home to a botanical conservatory, a geodesic dome structure and hot house home to many tropical plants.

Museum of Anthropology – located at the University of British Columbia, this world-renowned museum is known for its extensive collection of native British Columbian art and artifacts.

Various Beaches – while downtown is surrounded by First, Second and Third Beaches, there are many more when you leave the downtown area. On the western end of the university endowment lands you’ll find Wreck Beach, a nudist beach if you’re inclined to get a full body tan.

That’s it for Vancouver proper. I am sure I missed a few attractions and readers are invited to post additions in the comments section.

In the next few days I’ll cover the neighbouring communities and their attractions, including the north shore communities of North and West Vancouver with their nature parks and ski hills as well as attractions from Mission to Squamish. Again, that will be an overview. I may post more detailed accounts of specific attractions at a later date.

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Great Scot! It’s the Great Gatsby!

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Rowena’s Inn on the River is a delightful trip back in time. It’s an old homestead built by a pioneer logger in the area for his family.

Charles Nelson Pretty was a businessman and entrepreneur. In the 1920s he had an opportunity to buy a 160 acre parcel of land in Harrison Mills. That land became, among other things, a dairy farm, a silvertip fox farm and a logging operation. At one time, Pretty’s operation was the largest privately owned logging company in all of British Columbia.

The Pretty Estate overlooks the Harrison River #HarrisonMills

When the home was built, there was no road. The Pretty family took the train to Harrison Mills and paddled by canoe to their estate. Later he had a yacht built and sailed up the river, mooring in front of his home.

While Charles and his wife Rowena spent much of their time in Vancouver, they also spent time in Harrison Mills. Betty-Anne, the youngest of their four children was actually born at the home.

The Pretty family home at Harrison Mills

There was no electricity, so Pretty built a dam and produced his own electricity. The home still runs off the power from this generator.

In 1968, two of the children died tragically within six months of each other. Charles Pretty passed away in 1992 at the ripe old age of 102. The two surviving siblings, Ivan and Betty-Anne decided to convert the old manor into a Bed and Breakfast in 1995. They named the inn Rowena’s after their mother and late sister. There are five bedrooms available.

Four cozy cabins were added and the gatehouse which has two bedrooms is also available.

Two of the four cabins available for rent
Two of the four cabins available for rent #Luxurycottage

Ivan thought the location was ideal for a gold course and the 18 hole Sandpiper Golf Course soon became a reality. A restaurant was built adjacent to the old homestead. It was called the River’s Edge Restaurant but was renamed as the Clubhouse Restaurant to tie it in with the golf course. (I like the old name better!)

After Ivan passed away, Betty-Anne bought out his share and became sole owner of the property. Though Betty-Anne sold the estate in 2016, she and her husband Doug still live in the house, though Doug is currently in a convalescent home.

One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint!
One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint! #RowenasInn

The house is filled with antique furniture and old photos of the family’s history. As a home from the 1920s,  it seemed an ideal place to hold an annual themed party costume party. And so the annual Great Gatsby Party came about.

Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014
Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014 #RowenasInn

We attended the party in 2014, dressed up in costume, and stayed overnight with our friends Chris and Sheila. The Pretty family and their staff do it up in grand style. They bring in several old period cars and park them on the lawn of the estate. They bring in a few large tents in case it rains (which it occasionally does) and they brought in a swing band, the Jen Hodge All Stars, to provide some atmospheric music. They rocked the place. Band leader Hodge is the bass player in the video below.

There were also professional dancers to get people into the swing of things.

Professional dancers got people's toes tapping.
Professional dancers got people’s toes tapping. #RowenasInn

It did rain for a while during the day and the party was moved under the tents and indoors. Tea and refreshments were served, including 1920s era drinks like mint juleps.

Janis and Sheila enjoy a cup of tea while chatting with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty.
Janis, Sheila  and Chris chat with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty. #HistoricalInn

Of course, one of the main attractions is the attendees. Some go all out to create the 1920s look. Flapper dresses, vests, suspenders and pocket watches. My wife sewed her own dress for the occasion.

Three gals in flapper dresses
Three gals in flapper dresses #RowenasInn

We thought that the party might just attract older folks like ourselves but we were surprised by how many young people got into the spirit of the occasion.

Outside under a tent, the Baz Luhman version of The Great Gatsby was playing on a screen, but not many people were watching. It was backdrop.

The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound
The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound #RowenasInn

The Gatsby Party skipped a year in 2016 but is back for 2017. A limited number of rooms and cabins are also available if you want to stay overnight.

Below is a short promotional video the estate produced for the Great Gatsby Party. My wife and I just happen to have a cameo appearance.

And while the Gatsby Party is a fun reason to visit Rowena’s, there are other reasons and seasons to visit. The inn is at the base of the road that leads to the Hemlock Ski Resort. The same road leads to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel where you can watch salmon spawn. It’s open for visits from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1 every year.

And the Harrison River attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America every year in November. November 18-19 this year kicks off the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. Pretty Estates is a great place for eagle watching.

And this year the estate is having a special Valentine’s dinner in both the Clubhouse Restaurant and in the dining room at the inn. My wife and I have booked a two day stay and are looking forward to it.

Rowena’s is a thoroughly charming trip back in time with many activities to choose from. It’s only 21.9 kilometres from Harrison Hot Springs and 108 kilometres from Vancouver, about an hour and a half drive.

Below are two photo galleries and some links of interest. If you’re on the front page of this blog, just scroll on down, otherwise click on the links. I will be taking more photos and adding them after Valentine’s Day.


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Photo Gallery: Great Gatsby Party

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Here are some more photos from the Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s Inn on the River in 2014. The party is being held again on June 11, 2017.

The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena's
The Great Gatsby Party at Rowena’s
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Live music from the Jen Hodge All Stars
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Tents were set up to provide shade and/or shelter from the rain
Professional dancers added to the mood.
Professional dancers added to the mood.
A number of people mingled at poolside
A number of people mingled at poolside
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she's wearing
My wife sewed her own outfit and created the fascinator she’s wearing
Janis and Sheila have tea
Janis and Sheila have tea
Betty-Anne's husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
Betty-Anne’s husband Doug chats with Chris and Sheila. Doug is now 90 and in a convalescent home
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
One of the classic cars brought in for the party
This classic Rolls was also on display
This classic Rolls was also on display
The guy on the right won best male costume
The guy on the right won best male costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Betty-Anne presents the prize for best female costume
Janis and I near the restaurant
Janis and I near the restaurant

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